I would not say that I really like reading about love in all of its many forms – I would never read a romance novel, for example – but love seemed to be a common theme in three very good books which I read in February. One is a volume of short stories, another a fabulous poetry book, and the last a novella translated from its original French.
Love Stories, edited by Diana Secker Tesdell ****
I cannot resist the beautiful Everyman’s Pocket Classics with their lovely striped spines, so when I spotted this in the library, I added it to the already enormous pile of books in my arms. I thought that it would be a great volume to begin on mine and my boyfriend’s anniversary, and it certainly was. As with my beloved New York Stories, purchased at The Strand in New York City, the authors collected in this volume are varied, and range from F. Scott Fitzgerald and Guy de Maupassant to Roald Dahl and Margaret Atwood.
Love Stories is wonderfully varied, both in terms of their settings and how the love within each is portrayed. Some of them were new to me, and others were not, but it was lovely to revisit old favourites alongside fresh tales.
My favourite stories were ‘Winter Dreams’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘Armande’ by Colette, ‘Mr Botibol’ by Roald Dahl, ‘Immortality’ by Yasunari Kawabata, ‘Here We Are’ by Dorothy Parker, ‘The Stranger’ by Katherine Mansfield, ‘Bluebeard’s Egg’ by Margaret Atwood, ‘A Temporary Matter’ by Jhumpa Lahiri, and ‘May’ by Ali Smith.
Love Poems by Carol Ann Duffy *****
Love Poems was another library book which I could not walk past without picking up. I adore Carol Ann Duffy’s poems, and am slowly working my way through all of her volumes. All of the work which is collected in this book comes from other volumes, some of which I have already read, but it is a wonderful idea to collect poetry which has such a central theme together.
Throughout, Duffy’s writing is startling and drips with emotion. She has the knack of painting incredibly vivid pictures in the mind by using just a handful of elegantly crafted phrases. I love the different poetical techniques which she uses, from simple rhymes to reimagining Shakespeare’s sonnets. Gorgeous ideas are woven in – for example, in the poem ‘Deportation’:
“We will tire each other out, making our homes
in one another’s arms.”
Duffy examines every aspect of love: relationships, sex, loss, imagining future families, memories, and adultery, amongst others. Love Poems is a very short volume, but it is a very beautiful one, and I really want to purchase my own copy now so that I can dip into it whenever I like.
The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry ****
I was first alerted to this lovely little novella in one of treepaperbook‘s Youtube videos, and thought that it sounded too lovely and witty to pass up. I was so pleased to spot a copy when I visited Waterstone’s Piccadilly with my boyfriend.
I love the book’s premise:
“One morning a librarian finds a reader who has been locked in overnight. She begins to talk to him, a one-way conversation full of sharp insight and quiet outrage…”
I found that it was not really the best of ideas to begin reading The Library of Unrequited Love just before I went to sleep, because it is a continual stream-of-consciousness work, which has been written in just one paragraph. This rendered it difficult to know where to stop reading. Everything which I love about contemporary French literature can be found in this slim volume; it is witty, shrewd, clever, slightly sarcastic, and intensely readable. The unnamed librarian’s narrative voice is captivating, and the novella is so interesting in terms of the social and political history in France, and the musings upon the Dewey Decimal System. The Library of Unrequited Love is very quirky, and is a treat for bookish people and library goers alike. I for one cannot wait to see what Sophie Divry comes up with next.